Hypertension is a frequent, chronic, age-related disorder, which often entails debilitating cardiovascular and renal complications. Blood pressure is usually noted in combination with other cardiovascular risk factors. Diagnosis of hypertension increasingly relies on automated techniques of blood pressure measurement. The pathophysiology of essential hypertension depends on the primary or secondary inability of the kidney to excrete sodium at a normal blood pressure. The central nervous system, endocrine factors, the large arteries, and the microcirculation also have roles in the disorder. Although monogenic forms of blood pressure dysregulation exist, hypertension mostly arises as a complex quantitative trait that is affected by varying combinations of genetic and environmental factors. Non-pharmacological strategies can reduce blood pressure. Antihypertensive drug treatment diminishes the complications of hypertension. The concept that a few major genes will provide the final clue to the pathogenesis of essential hypertension is an oversimplification that contradicts the heterogeneous nature of this disorder. Further integration of genetic, molecular, clinical, and epidemiological research could disclose subsets of patients in whom specific combinations of genetic and environmental factors raise blood pressure, and might lead to more individualised treatment.